GEORGE BUSH told USA Today last week...


GEORGE BUSH told USA Today last week that Indiana's favorite son definitely would be on the ticket.

Well, actually, he told the paper that Dan Quayle would be on the ticket. I'm not sure Dan is Indiana's favorite son. Also last week, Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette political writer Brian Howey wrote, "many Hoosiers have been saying under their breath for four years now [that] George Bush picked the wrong Indiana senator to be his vice president. If Bush could get beyond his blinding loyalty, realize that people don't want Quayle a heartbeat away from a 68-year-old chief of state, he would find a cabinet post for the veep and give [Indiana Sen. Richard] Lugar the promotion he deserved four years ago."

Indiana is having a big year on favorite sons. Quayle. Lugar. And Indiana Rep. Lee Hamilton was a finalist for the Democratic vice presidential nomination. This used to be routine, according to "Indiana's Favorite Sons." Author Ralph D. Gray calculates that "between 1840 and 1940, Indiana supplied candidates to the national political parties more often than not. Nearly 60 percent of the elections during the century, even without counting Abraham Lincoln's two campaigns, had Hoosiers on the ticket."

I don't know why he didn't count Lincoln. Honest Abe lived in Indiana for 14 years, which qualifies him as much as some of the favorite sons in the book. For example, the first on the Gray list was Whig President William Henry Harrison. He was born in Virginia and spent 12 years running the Indiana Territory. But he was elected president in 1840 from Ohio, a quarter century after he left Indiana. And the last Hoosier on the list was the 1940 Republican presidential nominee Wendell Willkie, who had left his native state for Ohio, then New York 20 years before his nomination.

Gray counts minor party nominees. I don't. But counting Lincoln, Indiana's record from 1836 (when Harrison ran and lost) to 1940 is 14 presidential and vice presidential nominees in 27 elections. That's 52 percent. Not too shabby.

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Speaking of Hoosiers, I recently wrote that very few men from minor league baseball states have ever been elected president. I counted only three since organized baseball began in 1876. One of those was Benjamin Harrison of Indiana, who won in 1888 but lost in 1892.

Alan Kaufmann writes to correct me: "According to the 'Baseball Encyclopedia' the National League included the Indianapolis franchises in 1878 and 1887-1889." I appreciate the correction. It makes my theory (that bush league state candidates can't win) all the stronger. Harrison won when he was from a major league state, then lost when he was from a minor league state.

Sorry about this, Bill Clinton, but maybe next time you can run against Quayle, whose state still doesn't have a major league baseball team. Or a major league football team, either, right, Baltimore?

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